Keyboard Builders' Digest
Save 5% at Ashkeebs! Code: KBDNEWS
Keyboard Builders' Digest / Review

M4CR0Pad in action

I tested the M4CR0Pad by Ergohaven and thought it would be interesting to demonstrate the ease of setting it up, along with a typical use case.

KBD.news
Published September 22, 2023
Creators! Feel free to tip me off about your keyboard related projects to bring them to 100K readers.

Evgeny from Ergohaven was kind enough to send me one of his M4CR0Pads. (I received it for free, only had to pay VAT and customs.) Instead of merely presenting its specifications, I thought it would make sense to write about how I set it up to aid my work, especially image processing.

Specs, build quality, design

We are talking about a 12-key macropad (3x4) which comes with a rotary encoder and a display – all this in a 3D-printed white case. In the parcel there was also a decent quality USB-C to USB-C cable with a small USB-C to A adapter. Plus two small tenting legs of the High Stakes breed. (I got some more samples of these 3D-printed legs of the tilt system, but those are not part of the default bundle.)

Pic: M4CR0Pad vs Planeta

M4CR0Pad vs Planeta

The look and feel is similar to – surprise! – Ergohaven's Planeta I reviewed earlier and which I've been using at home ever since.

Seeing both the black (K:02) and white cases, I definitely prefer the latter. It's really classy and the 3D printing layer marks are less obvious. The white blank XDA caps perfectly match the case, and I love the accents too.

Pic: 128x64px OLED

128x64px OLED

The display's resolution is 128x64px (slightly larger than the more common 128x32 ones) which works better in the vertical position imo.

The device has a decent mass, you won't toss it around your desk accidentally. (Anti-slip bumpons on the tilting legs only.)

Specs

  • 12 keys, MX, hotswap
  • rotary encoder
  • 128x64px OLED display
  • RP2040 MCU
  • USB-C connector
  • QMK firmware, Vial ready

Macropads in action

Well, macropads are cute and cool props, but to say the truth I'm not really a macropad person. Or to be precise, I wasn't. Because for the sake of this test I could identify one specific use case in my workflow which is responsible for some awkward finger gymnastics every day: image processing. (Using combos like Ctrl+Shift+V/E is not the most comfortable way to do things if you, like me, have your modifiers on a split's thumb cluster.)

Of course I could have done this exact same keymap by setting up a dedicated layer on my split or semi-split boards, but actually it seemed to make sense to outsource a bunch of functions which follow in a logical order – without the need of pressing and holding a lot of layer and modifier keys during the process.

Workflow

A do image processing almost entirely in GIMP. Nothing serious: cropping and resizing images, converting file formats, export. Pretty much that's it. (Plus an ancient image viewer which I use for batch resizing to make the weekly covers, but that's not a big deal.)

Pic:

As a first step of setting up the macropad I tried to identify the major steps of my workflow, along with the associated hotkeys or keypress sequences:

  • (Copy or Screenshot [Alt+PrtScr])
  • Paste as a new view [Ctrl+Shift+V]
  • Crop [Shift+C]
  • Resize [Alt+I>S, enter size, Tab, Alt+S to confirm]
  • Export [Ctrl+Shift+E]
    • Navigate/Create subfolder [arrows, tab]
    • enter filename
    • confirm export settings modal [Alt+E, Alt+E]
  • Resize (thumbnail – same as above)
  • Export (thumbnail – same as above, with some navigation in the folder structure)
  • Close view (Alt+W, confirm Alt+D)

The exact hotkeys may change depending on your language settings, but that's not the point. What's more important is to be clear about our goals and the means to achieve them, while possibly not introducing even more issues on the way. ;)

Issues and goals

My normal workflow requires some keyboard-mouse changes (which I can't really avoid entirely), a handful of awkward key combos, and inconvenient juggling with layer changes.

When offsetting some tasks to the macropad, we can address the problem of the awkward key combos and layer changes right off the bat, however, I had to keep an eye on the newly introduced macropad-keyboard changes. Just like keyboard-mouse changes, they are very ineffective which I'd like to avoid or minimize.

Pic: Tilting/tenting with High Stakes legs

Tilting/tenting with High Stakes legs

The problem in the above example is: you may have to enter (newly created) folder and file names, for which a macropad is not really ideal or an option at all. Instead of changing back to the keyboard for this step, I wanted a simple solution to do this on the macropad.

Accidentally, I use number-only folder and file names for most of my images, so all I had to do was to set up a secondary number layer on the macropad (the macropad comes as a numpad on the base layer but I needed it on a different one).

Even better, if I'd like to automate the process entirely, I may stick to a single default file name (entered by a macro) and rename it later, e.g. when transferring the image to the server (while using a keyboard anyway).

Programming

The programming went like a breeze. The M4CR0Pad is Vial compatible, so all you have to do e.g. after visiting vial.rocks is some pointing and clicking. "Programming" is really an overstatement, let's call the process configuring instead.

The most difficult part, at least if you haven't done this before, may be setting up macros. I had some issues with Vial in this regard, but you should be fine: it was a result of my language settings.

Keymap

With the above functions in mind, I set up two layers. A base layer and a number layer. (The macropad can handle 16 possible layers by default.) Here is my base layer:

Pic: WIP base layer for image processing with Gimp

WIP base layer for image processing with Gimp

As you can see, there was room even for Esc and Undo. (If you're wondering about the Ctrl+Y, I'm on a QWERTZish layout.)

And below is a screenshot of setting up the almighty macro doing most of the job – and which threatens with a real disaster if I ever trigger it outside of Gimp. :D

Pic: Macro

Macro

Result

After setting this all up, I leaned back and watched with satisfaction how photos are being resized and saved on a single keypress – with modal windows popping up and disappearing automatically. The only issue I'll have to work on is finetuning delays here and there. If Gimp lags or resizing/saving of a larger file takes more time, keypresses of the macro may come too quickly.

Conclusion

The Ergohaven M4CR0Pad is a nice little buddy, very easy to set up thanks to its Vial compatibility, which can be effectively used to address specific workflows as demonstrated above.

12 keys were more than enough for my use case – actually, in the end I could set up a single key with a long macro doing the whole job described above. :D

Pic: Size comparison with random devices I had at hand…

Size comparison with random devices I had at hand…

I haven't even exploited the display and rotary encoder, but even without those, my workflow is already much more convenient.

Resources

Do you like this post? Share, donate, subscribe, tip me off!

Published on Fri 22nd Sep 2023. Featured in KBD #136.


Related

3D-printed macropad

A Pico-based 3D-printed macropad by dr2mod with case STLs.

DaNumPad

Source files of Tweetydabirdie's DaNumPad are available on GitHub.

Croaky4

Superkelp's first attempt at a PCB & case design – an open-source macropad.

A resin printed macropad

A resin printed macropad prorotype by Thegsey (pics).

Single button keyboard

1u keyboard by onebigdoor using snipeye's Uno macropad. With pics and case STL.

SS4H-EK Video Editing Keypad

An open-source, wooden video editing keypad by Sokolsok: the SS4H-EK.

×
top